One day after going 1-12 with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP), the Mets had a much better time of it Thursday, going 4-14. Still, production with RISP has been one of the trouble spots for the Mets early in the 2010 season. After nine games, the team has a .554 OPS with RISP.
How bad is that? The National League average for OPS in RISP is .807. The Mets rank 15th out of 16 teams, 92 points behind the 14th place Washington Nationals. The only team the Mets edge out is the woeful Houston Astros, who have a .529 OPS.
Here are the top six players for the Mets in terms of PA with RISP and what they have done:
Name PA AVG OBP SLG Jeff Francoeur 16 .200 .438 .300 Jason Bay 12 .182 .250 .182 Gary Matthews 12 .000 .250 .000 Rod Barajas 11 .333 .273 .444 Fernando Tatis 11 .222 .364 .222 Alex Cora 10 .111 .200 .111
The first thing that jumps out is that David Wright is nowhere to be seen in this chart. Ideally, the lineup is situated so that the team’s best hitter comes up with RISP but with Jose Reyes missing time early and still working his way back into shape, the top of the order for the Mets has not been very good.
The next thing to stand out is reason #512 why Gary Matthews should be on the bench. I suppose it is nice that the Mets are keeping their promise to a veteran and giving him a chance to compete for a starting position. But as I have stated earlier, if the choice is between a guy we know is no good (Matthews) and a guy who may or may not be good (Angel Pagan) – always, always, always go with the guy who at least has a chance to be good.
Bay and to a lesser extent Tatis struggling has been a problem. Francoeur has not done as well in these situations as he has done overall, but to suggest that a guy with a .438 OBP is a problem is not a stance I am willing to take. Barajas is right where you would expect him to be in OBP and SLG (maybe a tad high on the SLG end) and Cora is not far from where one would expect.
Right now the Mets are below average in runs scoring. Hopefully once Reyes gets back to 100 percent and Beltran rejoins the lineup next month, things will improve on that end. And the team has a chance to really make a move with just a little better luck with RISP.
Why do I call it luck? Because the NL BABIP with RISP (or National League Batting Average on Balls in Play with Runners in Scoring Position, for those who prefer English) is .291, essentially the same as the .300 BABIP overall this season. The Mets BABIP with RISP is .217, which is simply not going to last over an entire season. Last year the NL overall BABIP was .299 and with RISP it was .292. The lowest BABIP for RISP for a team in 2009 was .275, while the Mets hit .309 for the year.
So, contrary to what some may think, there is no great skill to hitting with RISP. Generally, players hit better with runners on base than they do overall (NL batters have a .762 OPS overall this year compared to a .799 OPS with runners on base and the .807 mark with RISP mentioned earlier). Essentially, the key to having a good offense is to get runners on base. The Mets are currently tied for seventh with 171 PA with runners on base.
As bad as things have been the first two weeks of the season, the offense, when viewed in terms of getting runners on base, shows signs of being above average. Additionally, the early returns on the bullpen are good. Right now the fate of the season rests with the starting pitching.
And a little better luck with RISP.